Recognizing Syphilis: Pornographic Knowledge and the Politics of Explanation

  • Monika Pietrzak-Franger
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)


This chapter is concerned with a broad range of expository situations and rhetorical contexts in which syphilis existed at the time. It asks who was allowed to see and talk about syphilis, under what circumstances and how such acts were justified. How was the spectacle of syphilis framed and what political considerations accompanied the display of the disease? A discussion of medical publications, domestic medicine manuals, specialist and public museums, feminist writings and late Victorian novels highlights the complexities of syphilis exposition. This chapter thus inspects various narratives of syphilis recognition and sketches similar patterns across media and genres, to expound the pornographic character of the knowledge about syphilis and the repercussions this had for all who joined the debates.


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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Monika Pietrzak-Franger
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut fùr Anglistik und AmerikanistikUniversität HamburgHamburgGermany

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